Codelicious with Christine McDonnell

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We build the curriculum in a project-based environment, and we deliver lesson plans and activities to engage students of all learning styles.
— Christine McDonnell

In this episode I talk with Christine McDonnell, Codelicious co-founder and CEO. Codelicious works to build confidence in educators and students in the classroom by providing instant access to full semester foundational skills-building computer science curriculum. The curriculum is focused on grades 3-8 that any educator can teach.

Many of them have not had experience in the subject of computer science, and may lack the skill set to instruct computer science. As a result, most curricula in this area is based on free options. Codelicious fills a void by delivering full semester, comprehensive skills-building curriculum and foundationally takes students through the journey of preparing them for a technology pathway.

Topics in this episode

  • Current status of computer science education in schools

  • The importance of understanding coding and computer science in preparation for jobs in technology

  • Common methodologies of teaching computer science. Static vs engaging models

  • Other options for accelerating computer science into the classroom

  • The rapid growth of new technology affects the classroom and curriculum

  • Codelicious is structured to engage students and develop problem-solving skills

  • Pivoting from a brick and mortar after-school model to a SaaS curriculum licensing model

Contact Info

Website: Codelicious.com

Email: cmcdonnell@codelicious.com


Transcript

Mike Kelly:          Welcome to the Startup Competitors podcast. Today we have Christine McDonald who is the cofounder and CEO of Codelicious. Christine, welcome to the show.

Christine:             Thank you. It's nice to be here.

Mike Kelly:          All right, let's start with a pitch for Codelicious.

Christine:             Sure. So at Codelicious, we are building confidence and educators and students in the classroom, by providing instant access to full semester foundational skills, building computer science curriculum, grades 3-8 that any educator can teach.

Mike Kelly:          And if I'm an educator, what does that actually look like?

Christine:             So, what that looks like is our curriculum is delivered through a learning management system. So, we interface with the educator's learning management system, and we build it according to the instructional instance that they want to teach computer science. So, they tell us how they want to bring it into the classroom, and we customize the way the curriculum and lesson plans and project-based learning activities are organized for them to meet the educational standards that they are looking to achieve.

Mike Kelly:          Do you integrate with LMSs, or do you just upload the content that you have into an existing LMS?

Christine:             Good question. So we actually API into the backend of the learning management system. As a default, we build our curriculum out in a learning management system called Canvas. It allows us to just kind of play around a little bit, but we are LMS diagnostic.

Mike Kelly:          Nice. I remember back in the day, I did a little bit with LMSs, and it was not fun to integrate with them back then.

Christine:             They're better now.

Mike Kelly:          Okay, good. All right. And then for the student, what's that experience look like?

Christine:             Yeah, for the students, very engaging. We build the curriculum in a project-based learning environment, and we deliver lesson plans and activities to engage students of all learning styles. So, more often than not, coding is synonymous with computer science, and coding is certainly foundational, but computer science is much more than coding. And when you look at the technology jobs that are available today, about a third of them require mastery of coding, but all of them require an understanding of computer science.

Christine:             So, when we build our curriculum, it's educator facing, but when we build it to encompass projects to engage students, we have projects that will engage the visual learner, the auditory learner, the kinesthetic learner. Behind the computer, we have hardware, unplugged, digital citizenship. So, we really create that environment so that educators can focus on how to engage the students, as opposed to necessarily what to teach them, because the lesson plans are all there, and the tools are there. The educator can focus on how to deliver that outcome to the students that they're looking for.

Mike Kelly:          And when you're, because I'm building a model of your business in my head, to hopefully help me ask better questions. When you're selling Codelicious, are you selling to the individual educator? Are you selling to a school system? What does that look like for you?

Christine:             Typically it is to the school system, meant to be delivered by the educator in the classroom. More often than not, it'll start off with a pilot at a school, in which the principal/educator/headmaster, whoever is kind of the lead in that thought process, or maybe on the forefront of accelerating computer science in the classroom, they will have engaged with us and felt the opportunity to deliver computer science using Codelicious curriculum.

Christine:             And then, outside of that we can move to an enterprise-wide solution for a district or a consortium of private schools or charter schools, however the adoption model might look.

Mike Kelly:          And then current status of the company. Any vanity metrics you can share to help paint a picture of where you are on the journey? So that could be number of school systems, number of students, number of classes, anything, revenue, employees, anything you're willing to share.

Christine:             Yeah, sure. So we are on the scale up side. So, we closed our seed round of funding last summer, raised just under $1 million dollars.

Mike Kelly:          Congratulations.

Christine:             Thank you. It's very exciting. We've begun to grow our personnel status, so we are almost seven, right now, and growing. And in that, we're outreaching kind of nationwide to school. So we started here in Indiana around December timeframe, with the funding and ramp up of our staff, we were actually able to create a nationwide campaign that has taken on our first implementation outside of Indiana, was in Colorado. It's really kind of a fun opportunity for us, and we've just been able to grow from there.

Mike Kelly:          Awesome. So when you think of competitors in the space, who comes to mind?

Christine:             It's a very good question. When we think of competitors, we think more of kind of methodologies for teaching computer science, and then the approach that they take. So, for example, educators can build their own curriculum, given a certain amount of time, and many of them are very used to building things that they bring into the classroom. However, computer science presents a different challenge. Many of them have not had experience in the subject of computer science, maybe in their pre service training or in what they're doing in the classroom right now. So, professional development becomes a challenge.

Christine:             And then you have the other challenge when you're developing it kind of individually, which is twofold. One is technology changes. And so, as you're building that curriculum, say unlike an English or a math curriculum, computer science is very much impacted. Just like your cell phone updates way more often than you like, same thing with developer environments in computer science. So, there's a need there to continuously refresh, which is challenging, even after you built the curriculum.

Christine:             And then secondly, when school districts are looking to kind of scale across the district, challenges come in. If there's educator turnover, particularly educator who had developed the curriculum, and/or then kind of getting a common baseline of things that are instructed across the school district. So, there's always that option to build it locally, and we encourage educators who have that staffing. There's certainly a lot of content out there that's available to build a curriculum. So, that is one option that there is for accelerating computer science into the classroom.

Christine:             There is another option of just kind of pulling down freeware that's out there, different activity base. It becomes more of an exploratory solution. So, if you're just trying to kind of introduce students to what is computer science, they deliver some familiarity. There are a lot of choices for that out there.

Christine:             But, when it comes to delivering full semester, comprehensive, skills-building curriculum that picks up after that exploratory phase, and then foundationally takes students through that journey that prepares them for, say, that AP computer science class in high school, or that technology pathway, or the web design pathway, that type of foundational curriculum, which is education standards compliant, student outcomes driven, built upon deliverance from an educator in the classroom, doesn't exactly exist today. And that's the void that we fill.

Mike Kelly:          A couple of questions that occur to me off of that. So, the first one is, you'd open that by saying there are different methodologies for teaching computer science. What are some of those?

Christine:             So, we talk about kind of a static learning versus an engaged learning model. Codelicious chooses to do the engaged learning model. A static model might be a student in front of a computer. They have an activity, and when they're finished, the computer tells them if they've done something correctly, and then they get the next activity. So kind of a self-paced, if you will, independent learning, but kind of a self-paced learning but very static.

Christine:             Ours is an engaged student model, which has meant that it is meant to be delivered by the educator in the classroom. So, a problem-solving and analytics that are part and parcel to the core principles of computer science are a collaborative sport. When you look at even professionals today, the idea of a professional sitting in the basement, always coding, is not really true. There are meetups for adults. When you can't solve a problem, you go to a community event, and you see who's been there before.

Christine:             We believe that kind of problem solving, perseverance, kind of understanding of how, there's a concept that we teach called successful failure. In computer science, is very rare that anything works the first time. But the only failure is not learning from why it's not working the first time. So, successful failure is, it's okay if it doesn't work. Let's just don't repeat that same mistake. That's perseverance, that's problem solving. And for elementary and middle school students, which is where we focus, it is a greater opportunity to build those skills in a collaborative environment in the classroom.

Christine:             So, we build our curriculum to be that engaged learning model, meant to deliver those foundational skills to students by an educator. The projects can be independent, the project can be a group project. But that problem solving learning is meant to be in the classroom.

Mike Kelly:          And does the curriculum build over, and I'm sure it's probably different from school system to school system, but does it build over multiple years? So, if you're in a system, just like math builds year after year, is it the same thing here?

Christine:             Yes. So there's two answers to your question. Depending on how the school system wants to integrate it, so which you correctly surmised on your first part, but from our curriculum, yes, that is what it does. We actually start in third grade, is we pick up where we're done with that exploratory learning has been achieved, and now we're jumping into foundational skills building, which require a certain level of reading, and a certain level of math, which typically comes in third grade. So we can take them from third grade up to that introductory level, freshmen level high school, in that progressively challenging foundational skills building mode.

Christine:             In many states, Indiana included, there are progressively challenging education standards now, in the space of computer science. Virginia is the same, about nine states that have already kind of implemented what those educational standards and student outcomes look like, and our curriculum takes educators and students through that journey, sort of progressively building those skills.

Mike Kelly:          Homeschool option?

Christine:             We are working on that. That is a great question. So yes, we have begun partnering with groups kind of locally to to figure out how to help that. So, the curriculum itself is, again, meant to be delivered in a group-like setting. And so we have been looking for opportunities in which we can aid in that. We've had a lot of requests from the homeschool parents.

Christine:             This is one of those things which may or may not be something that they want to teach by themselves at home. And even if they do, there is that aspect of collaborative problem solving. So, yes, actually this fall, we did a pilot. The Monon community center up in Carmel had a pilot for homeschools, at which they were looking for someone to deliver computer science curriculum. So, we've kind of begun that journey, kind of begun to navigate that environment, and are looking for ways to kind of help grow that, because this is one of those curriculum topics that homeschool parents have asked for quite a bit.

Mike Kelly:          Your background before this, an education background, computer science background? All of the above? I'd love to hear your background, and how you landed here.

Christine:             So my undergraduates are electrical engineering and computer science. I obtained them from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. And then I worked for a chemical company for about 10 or 12 years. The latter part of that, I earned my MBA from University of Michigan, Ross School of Business. And then I moved on.

Christine:             After I got my MBA, I began working for McKinsey and Company, the consulting firm, and as part of that work, one of our pro bono projects was, we were offering how to help high growth technology ventures spin up their businesses faster. And I just got fascinated in that space. And so, after about four years with McKinsey, I struck out on my own consulting practice, which is when I got in touch with the Nashville Chamber, and worked on the Nashville Entrepreneur Center that you're familiar with.

Christine:             But as I was growing that practice, we then moved here, to Indiana. My husband's job brought him here. I brought my practice, continued to work with high growth technology ventures and as part of getting my kids engaged in the school system up here, I encouraged them to all volunteer to do some afterschool activity at their new school. And they all chose robotics.

Christine:             So, the phone call came from the robotics champion mentor that says, "You have three children in this program, and we need a coach."

Mike Kelly:          Welcome aboard.

Christine:             Right up my alley. And I said, "Great, I love this." And so I became, it was the overall coding coach. We did vex robotics. So, there's all kinds of goodness in that.

Mike Kelly:          I was just a judge at the event a couple of weeks ago.

Christine:             It is one of my favorite things. My kids are in high school now, and have developed different interests, if you will. But I loved our years and Vex. Got very fortunate the very first year, the team I was coaching won state, qualified for worlds. We went down to Kentucky. You've been to Worlds. This is an amazing experience for these kids. It doesn't matter where you're from, really, or even how great your robot is. That is the rockstar tournament for this space.

Christine:             And you see these kids, and they're celebrated for the technology that they've achieved. And they're engaged. Like I said, treated like rock stars at this event. And that first year I came away saying, "I wish I could help more kids feel this way about computer science." And then I met my business partner, and kind of tossing around ideas, and he had this idea for an afterschool type of computer science, a little bit like Kumon or Huntington, kind of a space there.

Christine:             And I said, "Okay. Here's the thing, with all of this that I've done, I believe I can get this business over the goal line, but let's figure out what exactly that business model is." So, that fall Elevate Ventures, Kelly's Swetland and Joe Albano, launched the Indy Startup Challenge.

Mike Kelly:          Yeah, I remember that.

Christine:             So, we got in. Codelicious got in, and as part of that, we were doing hundreds of client interviews. And for us, we were interviewing parents. "Would you enroll your children in an afterschool program?" And let's just say 99% said, "Yes, like we love it." But the one percent said, "I love the value proposition that you're offering, but why do I have to pay for it? Why is it not in the school day for my students? Why is it not core?"

Christine:             And that 1% really resonated with me. And I began thinking about, "Here we have all of this curriculum that we had built for this after school setting. It was solid. It was education standards compliant before Indiana had their education standards, the CSTA National Education Standards. We had written it for, we were good to go. These kids are gonna be solid.

Christine:             And that statement just kept running through my mind. "Why is it not in the school day? I said, "Yes, why is it not?" So, then we began interviewing schools, and we began kind of understanding the challenges for bringing it into the school day. And more often than not, they cited three challenges. So, one was just skillset, right? It was around educator confidence, if you will. They hadn't gotten it in pre-service training. Can I teach it in the classroom?

Christine:             So one was skillset, the next was lesson plans. There's loads of free content out there, but when you want to build a curriculum that takes students foundationally these grade level outcomes that they have to get through, it's hard. It's hard to build. So, the lack of lesson plans, and then the third, was just how do I bring it into the school day. As elementary, middle school educators, we are teaching life skills, and we are teaching many core subjects. How do we bring this into the school day?

Christine:             And so I said, "We got this! We wrote it so that volunteers could teach computer science in an afterschool setting. Educators are very logical thinkers. If you can write a well written essay, you have to plan the essay, outline the essay, you write it, you check for verb tense, you edit it. You can write a well written essay or term paper, this is the logic that comes into computer science, is problem solving and analytics in a different way.

Christine:             And so we had written this curriculum, and I said, I know we can get this in front of any educator, and they will feel confident. We will break down that barrier. So the skillset challenge we had taken under our wing, this lack of resources specifically citing lesson plans because that's the way we built this out. It was literally going to meet over the course of a semester, and they were going to achieve all these outcomes by the end of the semester.

Christine:             Then here's where the extra excitement comes in. So, then these educators were like, "How do I bring it into the school day? This canned curriculum is really hard to bring in the school day." And we've been working on this technology that allowed us to configure these lesson plans to reflect different instructional sessions. So, we could do one hour a week for 20 weeks. We could do a one week spring break camp. We could do 90 minute blocks over the summer.

Christine:             So we had this technology that was automating how we were pulling together this curriculum, and I got to talking to educators saying, "Well, what time would you have?" "Well I've got one 90 minute resource block once a week, full semester." "I can literally deliver to you a curriculum that, when you open it up, is 90 minutes worth of instruction.

Christine:             And so their educator says, "I've got two 30 minute pieces of my third grade science class that I want to teach computer science." I'm like, "We can do this. When you open it up, you'll have 30 minutes worth of lesson plans that you can teach to your students."

Christine:             And then there were those who were ready to deliver it in full semester, and I said, "We can solve this question, or help them think through how to bring it into the school day, because we're not a canned curriculum. We had this technology that allows us to build it the way they want it."

Christine:             And so, in January, 2017, we pivoted from that brick and mortar afterschool model to this SAS curriculum licensing model, which is all of this. We write it so any educator can teach it, the lesson plans and everything that they need are in there, and then we have this patent pending technology, which allows us to pull from this huge library of curriculum that we've developed, and build this semester's worth of instruction that these educators are looking for, deliver it to them through this very kind of interactive source, which is a learning management system, which 85% of schools already have a learning management system. And if they don't, we just extend our license to them, because it's the best way to deliver this multifaceted curriculum and enable them to be successful.

Mike Kelly:          You're so excited when you talk about this. It makes me smile. I wish everybody was at excited. It's awesome.

Christine:             I wake up every day, so happy to share with educators the fact that this is not a frightening event, and we now have many educators in our system who can speak to that as well. We have student outcomes.

Christine:             I remember our very first adoption was in a summer school setting. So again, flexibility. They didn't know how to bring it into the school day, so they wanted to run it in summer school. Not a problem. So we built the curriculum for them, and their educator was a history teacher, who's going to teach computer science. She had no fear, like she was ready. We got to observe this summer school session, and you can probably imagine, this middle schoolers I'd be highly confident most of their parents said, "You will take this."

Christine:             They probably hadn't opted in to take computer science over the summer. There might've been a couple of them. So, you kind of see them coming in, middle schooler summer school, earbuds in the ear, cap pulled down. You can envision. Great kids, just, this is middle school summer school opportunity.

Christine:             And I said, "Wow, this is a great opportunity for me to observe how this is going to work. The educator was amazing, and about about halfway through that first summer school day, all of a sudden you see the earbuds, I'm watching the back row sitters. All of a sudden you see, cause I was a back row sitter. I know what that looks like. So, you see the earbuds coming out, you see them kind of glancing at their neighbor. You start seeing them kind of point over saying, "Hey, how did you do that kind of thing?"

Christine:             And all of a sudden the whole class is engaged. I get goosebumps when I tell this story, because, to me, I knew we had it. When you can build a curriculum that this educator who wanted to teach it, she wanted to teach it, just didn't have the computer science background. She was being successful and confident. We had reached these middle school students in summer school to be engaged in it.

Mike Kelly:          Arguably the most difficult audience in education to to reach.

Christine:             I've been there. I have middle school students. I bow down to educators in this space, because it is very challenging, and I came away with this going, "This is good. There's always room for improvement, we didn't restaurant anything but I said, "Okay, this is a good thing. We can scale this. We can reach more."

Christine:             That was summer of 2017. That fall, states began making different types of announcements accelerating computer science into the classroom. So, there were mandates and timelines. There was funding tied to outcomes related to computer science. So, here we were, or are, with this curriculum that's good. And then this tailwind in the marketplace, which is, it's evolving to a core concept.

Christine:             Last year, there were only five states accelerating it into the classroom. Now there are nine. Another 22 are done with their computer science education standards, figuring out how to bring it into the classroom. Another 11 behind that are now developing their standards. So, here we are with this option, which is, once you've exhausted kind of the exploratory, which is great, kind of get to know, build familiarity, and are ready to launch into these foundational skills, really so that we're preparing students for the workforce and that thinking process and that and that confidence in leveraging computer science in everything that it is. We're ready, and we're there, and these are the schools that we're picking up. These are the schools that we're running with.

Mike Kelly:          That's awesome.

Christine:             Thank you.

Mike Kelly:          You've been at this for two and a half years?

Christine:             So, we're going into our third year. We probably had two years behind that, kind of building out the curriculum for the afterschool model. But yeah, in this particular one, January, 2017, was the origin.

Mike Kelly:          January, 2017. Nice. They only ran it once, right? Joe and Kelly.

Christine:             Oh, right! Yeah.

Mike Kelly:          What was it called?

Christine:             It was called the Indie Startup Challenge.

Mike Kelly:          Indie Startup Challenge, which-

Christine:             Changed our trajectory.

Mike Kelly:          Only went once. So you started there. I'd love to know what are some of the other either programs or organizations that you've engaged with over the last couple of years that have kind of helped on that trajectory?

Christine:             That is a great question, because I really do believe that this ecosystem that we have here in the state of Indiana is so favorable for startup, and building and launching. There are so many that have kind of propelled us along the way.

Christine:             So, shortly after that, we got invited to pitch at the Indiana Women's Conference, and I got connected with Christine Cooper of the Startup Ladies, because she was involved in the prep work for that. And then I joined her group. Her ability to connect startups in this space with advisors and people who have been down this track, whether it's a functional experience, or whether it's a corporate experience. I just found that interaction to be so encouraging, and so eye opening at many levels. And so we connected with her group.

Christine:             So, one of the other organizations is Women in High Tech, where, again, I met a lot of other female founders and CEOs, just learning from their journeys as well. Groups like that around Indianapolis. And then we got accepted. Well, we won a Mirror Award last April.

Mike Kelly:          Congratulations.

Christine:             Thank you. It was very humbling and very exciting at the same time. A few things kind of happen in cadence with that. We won the Mirror Award. We had been accepted into the G Beta accelerator, the inaugural cohort, and so we went through that, which was just a great tight, rigorous-

Mike Kelly:          Kind of stacking the deck with your G Beta.

Christine:             So, it was a very rigorous focus on the business while you're growing the business. And then, at that same time, we had begun to raise our round of seed funding, and then eventually closed that last summer. So, kind of the series of those events, and connections. It feels a little bit serendipitous, but at the end of the day it, it's just a choice of decisions. It's never the right time to jump into an accelerator or incubator when you're growing the business, because there's so much to do. But we kind of took the opportunities as they came and connected with these other great organizations, and have really been excited for all that we've been able to learn.

Mike Kelly:          I don't know if there's a question here, so much as a statement. So, humor me cause I'm interested in your take on this. Listening you to talk about this and particularly based on your background, this is not something that you clearly were positioned to do, and had a passion to do, and it's been your lifelong dream to do that. Does that make sense? This is not something that your whole career has led up to here, and this is the obvious next step.

Mike Kelly:          This is like you stumbled across what appeared to be an amazing market opportunity that nobody had solved, and have kind of jumped on it and been pulled along with some of that success. Is all that true? Does that all make sense?

Christine:             It's funny that you say that because I often kind of reflect on how did I get here. Perhaps you're right. It's just a series of decisions at the right time. I worked for a chemical company for 12 years, but maybe six of them were in engineering, and then I moved into sales, and then I moved into business management, and then I got my MBA.

Christine:             Then I became a consultant, and then I had my own practice. And then, through that practice, I worked with a lot of high growth technology ventures that I had been advising, and really became ingrained in that. And I think it's timing. So again, we had moved here, it was traumatic. My kids were in middle school, and seeing how this robotics reenergized them in the community. And then, again, just thinking, "I love my consulting practice, but what else could I do?"

Christine:             And then the opportunity came along. You're absolutely right in that, as an eight year old, I wasn't dreaming of a startup company to be in the Ed tech space. In fact, I don't know that anybody necessarily dreams of being in the Ed Tech Space. It's a little hard, right? It's a little hard. And quite frankly, there's a lot of people who will tell you don't do it.

Mike Kelly:          Yeah. Don't sell to schools. Don't sell to governments. Yeah.

Christine:             What? Are you kidding me? Oh, and by the way, there's a lot of freeware out there in the computer science space. Who's going to pay for your stuff? It was a conviction. It was a belief. I knew what wasn't in the schools. My technology background said, "I know how we can do this to engage children and help educators. And it's just a little bit of confidence and persistence and perseverance that says, "You know what? There's a gap here."

Christine:             And now, we do have people coming up and saying, "Wow, on the surface it looked like everything in the computer science world was covered, and yet you have found this." And now that whole value proposition is coming through as educators are having to meet these educational standards. So, to your point, yeah, as an eight year old, I'm not sure I would have envisioned myself here.

Mike Kelly:          Biggest lesson learned in the last couple of years. Or lessons, if one or two stand out.

Christine:             There's at least one, which is... Okay, so I'll give you two. First of all, if you're going to start a company, make sure it's something you love. It is every day, 24/7, challenging on many fronts, right? Family life, work life, all that kind of stuff. Just make sure it's something you love. Life's too short to grow a company if you're not all in.

Christine:             And then the second thing is, believe in yourself. Listen to what other people are telling you. Every thousand conversations to raise capital, 999 no's. But every no has a nugget of something in it that enabled us to continue to make our business better. But 999 no's can get a little trying on the vision. But believe. Do your homework, understand the market, understand the numbers, but believe.

Christine:             We're in a space that nobody has done this before, and it's in a market that is not traditionally very quick on the adoption. And so, our success is really not only good for a startup, but it's crazy good for an ed tech company. It really is just understanding what we could provide, and not giving up.

Mike Kelly:          What are you learning right now that you think is positioning you for success in the next six to 24 months?

Christine:             Well, I will tell you. One of the things I'm most excited about, is we have been, I don't know if this is the question you were asking, by it's the answer I'm going to give. We had been leveraging a certain kind of sales model and we were doing great. It was not a problem, but November of last year I said, "It's just not going fast enough. There's more that we should be doing out there, and if I do more of what I'm doing today, I'm just going to get the same results."

Christine:             Schools kind of go on holiday in November. So, I set my team up kind of around Thanksgiving time, and I said, "Here's the thing, over the holidays, we are going to gut this sales process, and we're going to revisit how we're doing, the message that we're sending, how we're reaching out to schools, what that pathway looks like, how we're qualifying leads."

Christine:             So we did that. We took six weeks over the holidays, because school was shutdown, to re-gut that. And then, in January, after schools had started back up, we launched this new approach to sales, which is going gang busters. So, there's two sides to that story. One is, I had to pause, and I had to spend some money that I hadn't told my investors I was going to spend, because I was blowing up our sales process. I just wasn't happy with the way it was going.

Christine:             So I told my board. I have a solid board. They're very results driven, but they're also kind of believe in the founder, and I said, "I really want to do this. I think it's going to change our trajectory." We come in, we blow it up, come in January, we're starting. My board meeting after the holidays was like two weeks into the year. They say, "So, how's your pipeline? Where's the bottle necks?"

Christine:             And I had to say, "Well, they're not really at the bottlenecks just yet, but I guarantee you this new process is going to work." And literally two weeks later, I had to bring on more salespeople. My next board letter that went out was, "It's working, and this is how it's working, and this is what it looks like." And so, it was literally kind of an eight week, 10 week lump there, where, you know, in a SAS company, there are core SAS metrics that are recurring, and it's nice to see them recurring and growing. And I took a hiatus in there to say, I actually think we could do this better. And the good news is, my board encouraged that. And now the data's coming through pretty good.

Mike Kelly:          I mean no entrepreneur ever has been satisfied with how quickly their sales are going. So, if you had to rattle off the top two to five things that you touched through that process that you felt were pivotal, I heard messaging was one of them in there. What else? You don't have to break down the whole thing, but what were some of the key things that you guys tweaked or touched as part of that process?

Christine:             Yeah, so first was messaging, for sure. So, what we had learned over that last year and a half was exactly what was resonating with educators, and what was getting us a response. So, we gutted all of our literature, all of our email campaigns, all of our inbound content hubs, and we kind of restructured them based on this messaging process.

Christine:             Then we had learned a lot, again, from our metrics, about how frequent educators were interacting with the information that we were sending out, which isn't frequent. We were sending out a lot, which means that they're busy. So, what they really want is kind of concentrated, targeted information. So, when was the messaging, and how we were getting them to access what we were sending.

Christine:             And then the other was the depth of what we were sending, because when they access the information, they want to dig in, because they have only so much time. And so we kind of restructured that frequency. Then the call outreach. By the time kind of revisited that buyer's journey, and then readjusted that in person contact, of when we would reach out to them. And that whole sequencing of that has really created this wonderful opportunity for us.

Christine:             So, in our content hubs, because our information is deeper and richer, we are getting crazy hits on our MQL, right? That just exploded over the holidays. And on our direct outreach, whether it comes from a trade show or from some leads that we have, the structured approach that we're kind of working with our school systems, trying to understand, giving them opportunities to respond back to us as to where they are in this journey so that we can help advise them. Even if they want to build their own curriculum, we will send them a curriculum building checklist, like, "Here, please, hopefully this will help you navigate it, because there's a lot of sources to find out there."

Christine:             So we've really tried to create this experience with Codelicious, which is, "Look, we want to help you accelerate computer science into the classroom. If you need what we offer, that's great. It's really good. If not, help us understand where your pain points are. We will try to help you funnel that journey."

Mike Kelly:          Nice. That's great. Thank you. All right. If people would like to learn more or get in touch with you, how can they do that?

Christine:             Our website's great. Codelicious.com. All of our contact information is on there. I am cmcdonald@codelicious.com, happy to respond to any email that comes our way.

Mike Kelly:          Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This is great.

Christine:             Thank you. Had a lot of fun.